Why Do Some Couples Come Out of Divorce as Friends?
And others can’t stand the sight of each other?
In my years as a divorce mediator, I’ve seen the full range of relationship dynamics between divorcing couples. On one end of the spectrum are those who can’t even stand to be in the same room together and at the other end are those who sit on the same side of the table and openly express their fondness of their soon-to-be ex.
So how do the happy divorcing people do it? Especially when there’s so much to be upset about! Okay, maybe they’re not full-on happy but there is a marked difference in how they make tough decisions during disagreement and how the not-quite-at-all happy folks do.
Here are some patterns with happy divorcing people that I've seen:
1. They’ve accepted the giant change of divorce as fact. It is happening and they realize that arguing about old points of contention from the past keep them in the past.
2. They’ve let go of resentments. Mostly, at least. This is a tough one, for sure, but the more you hang on to resentments, the more likely you’ll also be plotting retaliation. Tempting, I know, but not healthy for moving forward.
3. They give grace to the other person. Recognizing that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes and that new behaviors are hard to learn, they give each other space for their foibles. They forgive.
4. They share. They share money and debt and responsibility. They look at it like these things are owned by the team that is marriage and therefore should be shared by the new team that is divorce.
5. They find a way to appreciate the time they had and the memories they shared together. The fact that they’re divorcing doesn’t make those memories lesser for them. They see it as a time continuum where those were good times and now we’ve change so we’re moving on.
6. This last one is a little different. These happy divorcing couples have also set boundaries for themselves. They’ve identified their priorities and figured out what they’re willing to let go of (don’t sweat the small stuff kind of thing) and what they feel the need to hold on to.
The key here for both of them, to be successful and satisfied in their decision-making, is that they respect the other person’s boundaries and priorities. This goes back to giving grace, letting go of resentments, and not seeking retaliation. If one person is fighting against a particular issue not because it is one of their priorities but because it’s the priority of the other person, it’s likely they are bitter and resentful, which does not make for happy.
The cool thing here? These same tricks work in all kinds of relationships – parents, friends, co-workers, strangers, and staying married people. Happy relating!